Strength is not all about muscle power!
Everyone has many personal strengths, but few of us stop to recognize and name our strengths. We are more apt to focus on our weaknesses: what’s not working, what we don’t do well, what we can’t do yet, and the flaws others have perhaps pointed out.
What are strengths? Strengths are often thought to be a mixture of our talents, values, knowledge, resources, and skills. All of these factors do contribute to our success. Fundamentally, though, our strengths are our key defining character traits – the traits that make each of us most uniquely ourselves.
Why should we care? Identifying and naming our strengths is important for many reasons:
- Watching for our strengths as they show up in daily activities, we can begin to form a more positive image of ourselves.
- Becoming aware of our strengths, we can find ways to use them more often every day and can experience more energy and engagement and the satisfaction of greater ease and flow.
- Being more familiar with our strengths, we can begin to make choices and decisions – such as activities, relationships and employment – that match with and call forth our strengths and improve our learning, performance and help cultivate more happiness.
- Knowing our strenghts well, we can call on them and use them to our advantage not only in every-day situations but also to experience greater success in challenging circumstances as well.
Don’t have much of a strengths vocabulary? Take a look at two different lists on this website – with words like this close at hand, you may find personal strengths easier to understand and spot!
How do we figure our our strengths? Here are some options to consider:
1) Tune in to yourself:
- Pay attention to when you feel your best and most engaged, and when and ask yourself: what strengths are showing up here?
- Notice things that come easily to you, at your spontaneous reactions – don’t discount these strengths!
- Think back to the things from your past that have made you feel the most proud. What behaviors, attitudes or values of yours showed up in those situations?
- Consider what you are looking forward to in the near future, and notice what energizes you.
- What you really year toward? A sure sign your strengths will be in play!
- Don’t overlook strengths that show up only on occasion- these may be “unrealized strengths” that you will wan to to further develop.
- Printing out a list of strengths can help you develop the vocabulary for “strength spotting.”
2) Survey others:
- Consider the types of complements you hear most often – those may point to strengths.
- Jot down what people are always asking you to do – maybe that’s because you are naturally good at it! What strengths show up there?
- Ask each of the people closest to you to identify several of your strengths. Keep a list!
- If you have a coach or therapist – ask for his or her input!
3) Take a formal “strength survey”:
- The VIA (Values in Action) assessment looks at 24 human values in six categories. It’s well researched and available free online, although you have to register to take it, at the Authentic Happiness website. If you plan to take it, there are about 120 questions, so you may need to allow 30-45 minutes to complete the assessment.
- The Gallup/Clifton StrengthsFinder and Realise 2 are other well-regarded strengths assessments – You can purchase a book to do the Gallup assessment; the Realise2 is also fee-based.
- But watch out for other free online strengths assessments that may not be validated!
Once you begin to identify your strengths, try to use them more often!
- Look for opportunities to make your strengths more a part of daily life. For example, if appreciation of beauty is a strength, you will likely feel more fulfilled if you surround yourself with lovely objects, fabrics and the like and regularly make time to look at flowers and artwork. If zest is a strength, make a point of adding adventure into your life regularly to keep yourself engaged.
- Make a point of drawing on your strengths to face challenges. If spirituality is a strength, you may find prayer or meditation can help you through hard times. If humor is a strength, be sure to look at the funny side of even tough situations, and you’ll be more energized to handle things that come your way.
Now what? That’s really up to you: What specific step will you take this week to explore or use YOUR strengths?
photo: stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net